A 95-year-old World War II refugee living in Los Angeles County was threatened with eviction from her apartment last week after engaging in socially distant chats with her granddaughter from the safety of her upstairs balcony.
Perhaps no story more perfectly encapsulates the cruelty of California’s draconian health mandates and overall culture than that of Klara Kharkats. Sadly, it wasn’t even California’s Democratic leadership that bullied the woman into potential isolation in the twilight of her life — it was her neighbors.
Neighbors complained the elderly Ukrainian immigrant had been speaking in-person to her granddaughter, Rozanna Handrich. Handrich explained to KCAL-TV the events that led her grandmother using her balcony for socialization before being hit with a threat of removal from her Redondo Beach apartment.
“So it’s just her sitting in a room,” she told the outlet of her grandmother’s life. “I can get sad thinking about it because I can’t imagine what it’s like to just sit by yourself all day long.”
Handrich said before the pandemic, or more aptly, prior to California’s overreaction to it, her grandmother’s life was filled with the joy of frequent visits from her granddaughter and her great-grandchildren.
“I even had all their toys set up at her apartment so they wouldn’t get bored there,” Handrich said. “I would just sit with her for a few hours every weekend.”
Those weekend visits were forced to come to an end this year because of Kharkats’ age and the possibility she could face complications should she contract the coronavirus. Her granddaughter did what she thought was best, and avoided in-person contact with her grandmother.
“We are just really scared to get her sick,” Handrich said. “None of us want to be the reason anything happens to her.”
So the women improvised. Handrich began speaking with Kharkats from a sidewalk. Kharkats, meanwhile, remained a safe distance away on her balcony. It was a perfect solution that had worked for months.
But apparently that solution was not perfect enough for some of the elderly woman’s neighbors. Those neighbors complained to the manager of the apartment complex about the noise, and the 95-year-old was targeted by a letter nasty enough to make anyone’s blood boil.
Kharkats received a notice a week ago that she could face eviction over the noise complaints with regard to her conversations with her family.
The notice from the apartment management read: “We have received complaints regarding excessive noise coming from your unit. I have witnessed many times your guest coming to visit you and standing on the sidewalk talking to you. Please have your guest come and visit inside your unit.”
The tenant of 20 years was also told that she was “disrupting the quiet enjoyment of our apartment complex” and that “continued violation of your lease rule[s] and regulations will result in further action which may include eviction.”
The threat came as Kharkats’ world had already been upended, and her only human interactions were with Handrich and her children, who remained at a great physical distance during those chats.
Management for the apartment complex essentially asked Handrich to do something she feels might endanger her grandmother, which was to go inside her apartment to talk.
But the apartment complex property owner, which KCAL-TV reported is Culver City-based GK Management, intervened on the matter this week.
GK Management, to its credit, issued a statement apologizing for the tone of the notice the grandmother received from the apartment manager.
“We recognize the importance of families maintaining contact with their loved ones, particularly during this unprecedented time of COVID. We regret the tone of the notice our manager sent to Ms. Kharkats, which was taken from a form letter we send to tenants with chronic noise issues. We have sent a rescission notice to her this morning and apologize for the misunderstanding,” the statement read.
“The notice, which was prompted by complaints from other tenants, should have been more sensitive and spelled out the solution more clearly. We encourage family members to continue visiting their grandmother while maintaining CDC guidelines of wearing masks and maintaining social distancing,” GK management added, but with a request.
“Her health and theirs will be preserved by following those recommendations. In this case, we encourage the family to use their cell phones instead of yelling from the sidewalk,” the company said.
A bit of empathy could have gone a long way to avoid what happened to Kharkats. In the current social climate in Southern California, the reason a 95-year-old woman might be conversing at a distance from the safety of her home should have been obvious. But the Los Angeles area, generally speaking, isn’t known for its friendliness, self-awareness or empathy.
In any event, Kharkats is now being asked to use a mobile phone in order to minimize the noise. Still, Handrich is worried that a disruption of the current arrangement could be detrimental to the health of her grandmother.
“She’s concerned, because she’s lived there for so long. She doesn’t want to be evicted,” said Handrich. “She came from communism, so she’s actually afraid of any type of disruption like that.”
“You can hear it in her voice, if she hasn’t seen anyone in a while,” Handrich continued. “It really hurts me to hear when she says she is lonely.”
Throughout this year, the country has faced the emotional and psychological effects of isolation. No segment of the population has had to endure these strains more than our most vulnerable.
Going forward, neighborly gestures and common sense could go a long way with regard to ensuring exceptional people, such as Kharkats, don’t fall between the cracks. Perhaps those simple virtues aren’t too much to ask from those residing in Redondo Beach.
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